The Lady Indians saw a double-digit lead evaporate, but the hosts held on for a 64-61 victory over Eastern Wyoming C.C. of Torrington. The Region IX contest was played at the MCC Events Center.
MCCook used defensive pressure to key a 8-0 run and help build a 55-43 lead with just under nine minutes remaining. But the visitors clawed back in the game, finally tying the score at 59-59 with three minutes left.
MCC'S Mikaila Newton stole a pass, and she was fouled as she drove to the basket. Newton made one of two free throws to put the Lady Indians ahead 62-61 with just over 42 seconds to go.
EWC missed two free throws with 21 seconds left, and Tiffani Lewis grabbed a big rebound for McCook. The Lady Indians played keep-away until Eastern finally fouled with 7.4 seconds remaining. Akia Davis missed the front end of a bonus free throw, but teammate Shelby Hemmann, a 6-foot forward from Amherst, controlled the rebound on the baseline.
Hemmmann was fouled, and she dropped in both free throws with 4.6 ticks left.
Eastern Wyoming could not get off a shot before the final buzzer.
MCC interim head coach Kiley Rinehart gave Wednesday's opponent for a strong effort.
"We had a good lead and we let that go and let them back in the game," Rinehart said. "We weren't boxing out, we couldn't get penetration into the middle and that hurt us. They did a real good job on their zone and on their man (defenses). They played well. Torrington came out to play. I'm glad our girls responded."
COACH RINEHART SAID the momentum from the defensive-fueled MCC run was key to the victory.
"The momentum changed there -- that helped," Rinehart said. "When you can get that momentum going your direction, you know things are going right. If we can just get that every time.
"We have a lot of things to work on. The sophomores, they're great leaders, and these freshmen, they've stepped up in their roles well. I think we'll be all right."
Rinehart wasn't planning to be MCC's head coach this season. She started the year as head coach Ben Smith's assistant. But Smith resigned his position last week, and Rinehart took over as interim head coach of the Lady Indians -- her first head coaching gig.
"Me and the girls, we had a big talk about it (Tuesday)," Rinehart said. "You get put into a situation and you either fire up and try to do something with it, or you get left on the wayside following the motion. We're trying to get through it. No one can fill Ben's shoes -- he paved a big road, so we're going to try and follow it."
Rinehart said her team has showed they can handle all the distractions.
"The girls, they've really showed that they could persevere in a lot of instances and challenges," Rinehart said. "They haven't backed down. So I better not back down. They're doing well."
McCook had a big lead early in the first half. A layup by Newton put the Lady Indians in control at 23-13 with nine minutes left. But Eastern Wyoming didn't fold, and the visitors battled back to cut the lead to 36-30 at intermission. EWC got within 43-41 two points before MCC's 8-0 run midway through the second half.
The Lady Indians claimed their first win in Region IX South Division play this season.
MCC IS 5-1 overall, with Colby (Kan.) Community College coming to McCook Friday, Nov. 16. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. at the MCC Events Center.